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What's New, Pusssycat?

Feels slightly absurd to be fretting about keeping warm when we’re sweltering in a heatwave. But halfway through the watching-the-paint-dry dreariness of the Tory leadership campaign, it’s looking like soaring energy bills could, just, tip the balance. As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, Liz Truss for leader may not after all be a done deal.

Yep. The sunburn, drought, hosepipe bans and our pleasant land turning anything but green all go with the 1976 reheat (manner of speaking) scenario.

But as the Persian poet Omar Khayyam wrote more than a thousand years ago: ‘The Moving Finger writes; and having writ, moves on.’

And, sure enough, by the turn of the year the financial chill from bills that might top two months’ wages will be felt by millions.

A problem that’ll stray into the pockets even of those quite well off thank you very much Conservative party members who’re choosing our leader for us.

So far, around a third of them have already cast their votes. But that leaves two-thirds still scratching their comfortably coiffed heads.

Thus far, polls have put Truss way, way ahead. But as the contest coalesces around the rocketing prices crisis, the nation’s thoughts could influence them.

A YouGov survey last week suggested the Truss truism, that the only way is tax cuts, does not cut it for two-thirds of voters.

Which could serve as an aide memoire for those grassroots Tories who might not wish to be too inconvenienced by their heating bills.

They’d also quite like to win the next general election.

Truss may have got more than a little slippy-slidey on the subject lately, but she has set her face against what she’s termed ‘handouts’.

To many, the expression connotes doling out dosh to the undeserving. Indeed her occasional sporting of pussycat bows reinforces that impression.

But the Margaret Thatcher look is a two-edged sword.

After her defenestration, John Major’s efforts to soften the party’s image didn’t save it from annihilation at Labour’s hands in 1997.

And the Conservatives’ subsequent wound-licking exercise featured the following conference speech from one Theresa May:

‘Our base is too narrow and so, occasionally, are our sympathies. You know what some people call us? The nasty party.’

Ouch? Then, as now?

Of course, Truss’s allies are busily typecasting her opponent, ex-chancellor Rishi Sunak, as a re-cast Tony Blair.

But dark warnings that the horrid shock coming our way is up there with the pandemic may work to his advantage.

His Covid furlough scheme, which protected millions from destitution, is still relatively fresh on many minds.

And it might find some sort of echo in his ten-billion-pound plan to soften the impact of the coming storm.

As he put it, waspishly, at a make-your-minds-up-time Tory gathering last week: ‘You can’t heat your home with hope.’

Mindful of this, energy suppliers and government folk put their heads together last week to examine options.

No more than that, mind, as our current Prime Minister is, arguably quite sensibly given the problem’s not his to solve, playing No-Show-Bojo.

Not like he hasn’t got other things on his mind anyway.

It’s said he’s taking legal advice in regard to his own potential double fenestration at the hands of the commons Privileges Committee.

This elite group seems set to force him to fight a by-election on his own patch. On the grounds that, far from being the messiah, he’s a very very naughty boy.

All those alleged partygate porkies, it appears, could yet do for him.

The silks are also having their work cut out across The Pond, what with the feds swooping on Donald Trump’s Florida gaff, Mar-a-Lago.

The suggestion being he marred his already questionable record by making off with loads of documents he was supposed to leave behind on leaving office.

Theories abound as to what exactly the FBI was looking for.

Evidence he was egging on the crazies who stormed the White House in January last year?

Or was he, maybe, stashing away classified info about nukes? Either the Americans’. Or someone else’s.

All this on top of loads of other civil and criminal investigations into his tax and financial affairs, which could yet put him behind bars.

But the wheels of justice move so slowly that, ironically, the unprecedented humiliation of this bust could do him a favour.

So many Republicans, including plenty of previous waverers, are cheering him on that his chances are enhanced of another crack at the presidency.

They seemed to like his grumble about an: ‘Unfounded politically motivated witch hunt supported by lawyers, prosecutors and the fake news media.’

Prescient, perhaps, of Oscar Wilde to point out: ‘We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language.’

But, hang on a minute, you may say, their journalists can express themselves just as freely as ours.

Which should mean our colonial cousins are in a position to decide for themselves who are the goodies and who are the baddies.

Then again, as The Donald pointed out during a 2016 rally: ‘I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody – and I wouldn't lose voters.’

A joke? Up to a point, Lord Copper.

Russia’s ruler’s managing to keep most of his people onside in spite of having oceans of blood on his hands.

Has to be said, mind, that anyone guilty of putting out Putin’s idea of fake news risks getting jailed or murdered.

But the truth could yet leak out, with a bit of help from Ukraine’s friends.

Like Joe Biden’s Democrats, who’ve just promised a huge new tranche of high-tech US weaponry. Upping the total to nearly ten billion dollars’ worth.

We Brits too have chipped in, with a stash of rocket systems and pin-point accurate guided missiles that can smash things fifty miles away.

Of course the Russians carry on lobbing heavy artillery shells around. But it’s like a load of blunderbusses stacked up against long-range hunting rifles.

Which is why Britain’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace felt empowered last week to describe the invasion as ‘faltering’, and ‘starting to fail’.

Makes you wonder, if he’s right, how Putin might end up presenting that to his public.

Maybe take a leaf out of Hirohito’s book, after the Yanks blew Hiroshima and Nagasaki to bits?

‘The war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage.’

Something on those lines, unless the cat gets his tongue.

But letting that metaphor take this piece full circle, the Truss dress code may have been misconstrued.

If she makes it to Number Ten she’ll have to make room for one occupant already shacked up in the flat.

A cool customer, that Larry. Chooses his friends with care.

But no worries there, according to She Who Would Be PM.

We have, she claims, an ‘extremely positive relationship’.

‘He frequently sidles up to me,’ she adds. ‘I think I'm one of his preferred Cabinet ministers.’

If so, it begs the question why?

Maybe to Larry’s feline eye the bows are the cat’s whiskers.

Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News. For more of his fascinating musings on the turbulent political landscape, follow him on Facebook & Twitter.


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